Three days in July: Where do we go from here?

(CNN)July 5, 6, 7 — these three days in Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas send a powerful message about what needs to change in America. The stakes are profound and go way beyond the political debate over Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter.

In Louisiana, it was two officers responding to a call from a homeless man reporting an armed man selling CDs outside of a Triple S Food Mart convenience store. The officers arrived, Tasered their subject and tackled him. He struggled — resisted, fought back.


    Proper police training is intended to enable officers to overcome fears, assumptions and biases. Good training should prevent an officer from mistaking compliance for an act of aggression. Effective training helps officers to deescalate potentially explosive situations rather than detonate them. The right training promotes community policing, in which officers engage with the community as guardians, not as invading warriors.
    If we are to move beyond July 5, 6 and 7, police departments all over the United States, including my own in DeKalb County, Georgia, need to look at themselves, their recruiting standards and their training regimes. We police leaders need to look at ourselves as well, ensuring that our leadership fosters organizations of professional guardians, not wary warrior bands on a hair trigger.
    If we are to move on, our neighborhoods — whatever race, ethnicity, or national origin may predominate in them — must likewise become guardians, cooperative with the police, whose sworn mission is to serve and protect them. They must comply with the law and the authority that guarantee their rights, including the right to peaceful protest.
    The alternative?
    It is to repeat, endlessly, July 5, 6, and 7. In other words, the alternative is a permanent state of terror, whether inspired by murderously intolerant outsiders — ISIS, al-Qaeda, or by whatever other name — or perpetrated in the name of some other movement, cause, or perceived personal offense. It is an unlivable alternative, and so the police and the community must know they have enemies — but that their enemy is not each other.
    To move beyond July 5, 6 and 7, we need to look back to July 4 and the birth of the nation we share, dedicated to liberty, justice and the welfare of us all.

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